“What a people!” said Albano. “Here curled the giant snake five times about Christianity. Like a smile of scorn lies the moonlight down below there upon the green arena, where once stood the Colossus of the Sun-god. The star of the north glimmers low through the windows, and the Serpent and the Bear crouch. What a world has gone by!” The Princess answered that “twelve thousand prisoners built this theatre, and that a great many more had bled therein.” “O! we too have building prisoners,” said he, “but for fortifications; and blood, too, still flows, but with sweat! No, we have no present; the past, without it, must bring forth a future.”
The Princess went to break a laurel-twig and pluck a blooming wall-flower. Albano sank away into musing: the autumnal wind of the past swept over the stubble. On this holy eminence he saw the constellations, Rome’s green hills, the glimmering city, the Pyramid of Cestius; but all became Past, and on the twelve hills dwelt, as upon graves, the lofty old spirits, and looked sternly into the age, as if they were still its kings and judges.
“This to remember the place and time!” said the approaching Princess, handing him the laurel and the flower. “Thou mighty One! a Coliseum is thy flower-pot; to thee is nothing too great, and nothing too small!” said he, and threw the Princess into considerable confusion, till she observed that he meant not her, but nature. His whole being seemed newly and painfully moved, and, as it were, removed to a distance: he looked down after his father, and went to find him; he looked at him sharply, and spoke of nothing more this evening.
THE OPENING OF THE WILL
From the Flegeljahre (1804)
By JEAN PAUL
TRANSLATED BY FRANCES H. KING
Since Haslau had been a princely residence no one could remember any event—the birth of the heir apparent excepted—that had been awaited with such curiosity as the opening of the Van der Kabel will. Van der Kabel might have been called the Haslau Croesus—and his life described as a pleasure-making mint, or a washing of gold sand under a golden rain, or in whatever other terms wit could devise. Now, seven distant living relatives of seven distant deceased relatives of Kabel were cherishing some hope of a legacy, because the Croesus had sworn to remember them. These hopes, however, were very faint. No one was especially inclined to trust him, as he not only conducted himself on all occasions in a gruffly moral and unselfish manner—in regard to morality, to be sure, the seven relatives were still beginners—but likewise treated everything so derisively and possessed a heart so full of tricks and surprises that there was no dependence to be placed upon him. The eternal smile hovering around his temples and thick lips, and the mocking falsetto voice, impaired the good impression that might otherwise have been made by his nobly cut face and a pair of large hands, from which New Year’s presents, benefit performances, and gratuities were continually falling. Wherefore the birds of passage proclaimed the man, this human mountain-ash in which they nested and of whose berries they ate, to be in reality a dangerous trap; and they seemed hardly able to see the visible berries for the invisible snares.